I read the article entitled ‘Responsible recruitment’ with interest and felt compelled to write a response as this is an issue that has been on my mind for a long time. It’s the elephant in the room; in my opinion a very significant percentage of crew agencies operate in a shoddy manner. This is a controversial opinion, but I truly believe it. This will no doubt ruffle some feathers but it has to be said. Obviously, there are good agencies out there doing a great job but unfortunately there isn’t a lot of them.
Firstly, the majority of agencies are MLC Compliant. Whether they are certified or have been audited is a slightly different question, but this compliance relates to some very basic behaviours which agencies have to adopt regarding black listing, data protection and the checking of certification etc. It literally has nothing to do with an agencies recruitment working practices, which is where most agencies are lacking. I regularly see agencies that send CVs having never met or even spoken to crew, don’t reference check and a variety of other recruitment crimes.
What can be done about it? I agree with Mark Charman from Faststream that some sort of industry body or association would be incredibly hard to police and enforce. I also think that even if one was set up and running efficiently, to be done properly would cost a significant amount of money. The knock-on effect of that would mean some sort of registration fee for the partaking agencies and the body being run as a business, which raises all sorts of other potential issues.
I think the solution is really quite simple: as an industry we need to follow the example of the corporate world. Yachts need to speak with their business and money by stopping to use agencies that are so obviously cutting corners. We all know the poor practices that some agencies follow, so don’t accept it! As the client, yachts have the power and can demand a certain level of service for the money that they are spending.
My background after leaving yachting in 2007 was in London, where I worked for some of the best recruitment agencies in the UK across all sectors, including Eames Consulting and Aspire Group. My clients, some of which included Barclays, Goldman Sachs, HSBC and Thomson Reuters, would have had a huge sense of humour failure if I sent CVs having not briefed a candidate on a role.
In the event that two agencies sent the same candidate, this would reflect badly on the candidate if he had told two agencies to send him to the same role. If he had only spoken to one agency, then it would reflect very badly on the agency that sent him without briefing him on the role and company.
Sending 10 CVs of candidates as quickly as possible with some of them not being qualified or suited to the role would have only happened once before I would have been dropped as a recruiter. More often than not, the client would have informed my company of the terrible service they received and I would have had some explaining to do. Sadly, this just doesn’t happen in yachting.
I could talk at huge length about best practice but, while agencies get rewarded for ‘sending the CV first’, there is no incentive for any of them to change. Being paid for being first doesn’t reward agencies doing a good job as they are consistently beaten to the punch by someone who has done none of the due diligence. At Quay Crew, we follow the London business model not the crew agency business model, but that does mean being beaten to the punch sometimes.
The recruitment side of the industry has to change and the shift in perspective has to come from our clients, the yachts, and they have to demand more from the agencies they choose to work with. Only then will we see an improvement in recruitment standards.